Kenyan society through the eyes of artist Michael Soi

“A cat has a lot in common with a politician. When it’s hungry it’ll come and rub up against you, and then the rest of the day it just sits there”. – Michael Soi

Michael Soi is a Nairobi based artist whose pieces provide a personal reflection and satirical commentary on contemporary social, economic and political trends in Kenya. ONE’s Hannah Elansary got the chance to talk to Michael about his art.

sosi picture 4Michael in his studio. Photo credit: hiphopkambi.wordpress.com

When did you start painting ?
I began creating art from my childhood because my dad is also an artist. I took it seriously after high school when I went to art school and graduated in 1996 and officially began my career as an artist.

What is the biggest inspiration for you work? 
My biggest inspiration is the city of Nairobi

sosi-picture 2

Painting revealing Nairobi night life. Photo credit: edcrossfineart.com

Who is your audience?
My audience is mostly the people of Kenya and anyone who has lived in Kenya long enough to understand the dynamics of the society.  I want them to look at the man in the mirror.

Why is it personally important for you to paint about corruption and other struggles?
I do work that revolves around corruption because it is a big problem in Kenya, which seems to have interfered with the development of this country. Impunity is how government deals with this issue making it very difficult- I dwell on issues that a lot of artists will choose not to address.

sosi-picture 6Photo credit: edcrossfineart.com

Why do you think people refer to your work as controversial?
Because I touch on issues that they do and don’t want put out there. I talk about corruption and commercial sex work. Kenyan society is one that loves to bury its head in the sand.

Do you listen to any music while you work?
Yes! I listen to Manu Chao. I love his music and what it represents. I listen to a lot of weird music!

What is the goal of your artwork?
To create a visual diary where in the next 15 to 20 years, young people will look at my work and see where Kenyan society has come from.

Michael is currently working on a new series of paintings called I Love Nairobi. His work has been selected for group and solo exhibitions in Africa, Europe, the UK and the US, so look for his art at a gallery near you. Or find out more on Michael’s Facebook page.